Vail Daily column: The long-term ramifications of short-term thinking
Ryan Summerlin May 11, 2014
Life is a constant struggle between enjoying the moment, knowing that it is fleeting, and taking steps to secure your future, as being hobbled and destitute is no way to spend your twilight years. My underwhelming performance at early-season mountain bike races is a testament to the deleterious effect of après-ski beers and the short-sighted view that lead to their consumption. Those hefeweizens and porters sure did taste great though! The instant/delayed gratification dichotomy permeates all aspects of life and there is not one among us who is immune from its maddening thought exercises. In the legal world, attorneys and clients often rush to make decisions to suit their short-term interests without considering the ramifications for the years or decades hence. The incremental extra thought about the future is critical to crafting optimal legal solutions and protecting yourself from misery.
A common failure is to launch a lawsuit in an attempt to salve the immediate outrage. The foolhardy nature of this decision usually dawns on the litigant a few months in, when bills have mounted and the anger has subsided. A resolution, which may be unfavorable, is still a year away and the vacation/college/rainy day fund is already dwindling; not a fun feeling. Litigation is a useful tool and may be a smart decision as long as the requisite prudence is exercised. Concern that a lawsuit may deplete hard-earned financial or emotional resources is a strong harbinger that further consideration may be required.
A lack of forethought also often appears as a compromise resolution is on the horizon and a settlement agreement is being negotiated. Physically, mentally, and financially exhausted after the tribulations of litigation, parties are often just keen to be done with it all. They will forsake future rights for the sake of a quick payday. They may bend to the whims of the other more forceful party, which is particularly mystifying if they were the plaintiff in the first place. Why initiate a fight, expend resources on a vigorous prosecution to then wither when the stakes are the highest?
Attorneys demonstrate a remarkable lack of foresight all the time, in matters minor and major. Firing off a snarky email may feel great at the time, but rereading the email in the proverbial sober light of day feels horrific even if nothing downright offensive was said. If the attorney got so swept up trying to play to dramatic type that the intellectual defenses were down, then strategies or even client confidences could be divulged. The aftermath is absolutely brutal. It may earn the attorney a suspension or even disbarment in exchange for the brief thrill of a witty retort. That is bad career math.
Good lawyers react deftly to situations as they are presented; great lawyers anticipate eventualities and plan for them. As in chess, each move must be made with a view to long-term victory. While defeating a motion for summary judgment earns a temporary reprieve, it may set the client up for failure once the matter heads to trial. If eyes are not always on victory at trial, or even on appeal, then all already may be lost.
In our modern socioeconomic paradigm, when a public company is only as good as its last earnings report and instant communication is demanded, strategic thinking is becoming increasingly rare. Youth hear of 25-year-old tech billionaires and assume that success is either instant or else non-existent. If the first job or project is not a resounding victory, too many are so disheartened that they lose sight of the long-term play and settle for mediocrity. They also fail to consider that the spoils of triumph are the result of incredible risk, not a little luck, and visionary thinking. Changing the (tech/medical/legal/publishing) world requires imagining the contours of a new archetype and having the guts to bend reality to conform to such vision.
In A Perfect World
I imagine a new legal profession where lawyers are counselors in the truest sense of the word, not part of the problem. Partially Utopian but also wholly possible, this new world posits attorneys as moral as well as legal guides. Instead of advising clients as to how far they can push the line until it breaks, the new-school attorney takes a holistic approach that focuses not only on a client’s financial health, but also their physical, psychological and maybe even spiritual well-being. Faced with the harsh realities of current practice, it would be easy to give up the dream and instead focus on padding my bottom line. I have no intention of taking the short view.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.rkvlaw.com.